Shoppers explore ways to give back in holiday season

By Molly Zupan, Special Sections Editor

The holiday season is upon us, and we all know what that means. Malls and stores are going to be jam-packed with shoppers who are all on a mission to find the best deals and best gifts for family and friends. Aside from being avid gift-givers and holiday fanatics, these people have something in common: They can afford holiday shopping and celebration.

Thousands of people in the U.S. do not have the resources or financial ability to buy gifts, winter clothes or holiday meals. If you’re reading this column as a student, faculty member or alumnus, it is likely you can cover some of these costs.

While you are frantically shopping for the perfect holiday gifts for your mom, brother, favorite co-worker or yourself, stop and take a second to consider ways you can give to others.

Support educators

Reach out to your local elementary schools and see if they need any school supplies. School budgets are tighter than they used to be, and teachers are often expected to buy supplies for their students. Buy a few packs of pencils, crayons, pencil sharpeners, erasers or glue, and give them to your favorite teacher or school, or donate some of your old childhood books and toys.

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    Give hygiene

    The majority of donations given to local food banks and homeless shelters are food items, but think about all the things you use on a daily basis. Donate shampoo, toilet paper, body lotion, chapstick, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste and anything else you have stocked on your bathroom shelves.

    Spend your change wisely

    Instead of taking your year’s worth of change out of your jar to buy something for yourself, donate it to a local cause, such as a homeless shelter, women’s shelter or child care facility. A little can go a long way.

    Double the recipe

    If any of your neighbors are struggling to make ends meet, offer a holiday meal or dessert, especially if you frequently waste food or leave leftovers sitting in the fridge. Another option is to bring recipe items to a local food or homeless shelter. Holiday meals are notorious for being delicious and filling. Instead of overstuffing yourself with mashed potatoes and ham, share with someone else.

    Help a neighbor

    Provide a helping hand to a neighbor or local. Offer to wash their car, rake their leaves, walk their dog or fix a leaky faucet. Daily tasks such as these are typically more difficult to do as you get older or if you have a disability. These tasks may be time consuming, but trust me — you will be happy you did it.

    Offer your skills

    Public libraries and schools often offer services like resume review, job training or writing workshops. If you consider yourself a talented writer, stop by your local library or school and see if any volunteers are needed. A bit of your time could make a big difference in the lives of people in your community.

    Clear out your closet

    Instead of selling your unwanted clothing for extra cash, donate it to those in need. Winter in Illinois is consistently brutal; give your old sweaters, socks and coats to a clothing donation center to keep someone warm. If you’re a frequent shopper, get in the habit of giving a clothing item each time you buy a new one. Especially consider this if you’re shopping for holiday socks, as these are the items most requested by homeless shelters. Your closet is only so big; don’t overdo it.

    Give blood

    If you have the ability to handle a needle without feeling queasy or light-headed and fit donation requirements, donate blood. Giving blood costs you nothing and usually takes no more than an hour. More importantly, it could save someone’s life. Keep an eye out for blood drive posters, pop-up blood drives or head to a donation center.

    Molly is a junior in FAA.

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